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Bring on the treats

There's nothing to be scared of when it comes to this list of deilcious local sweets

JOHNSON'S CANDY COMPANY: A Hilltop institution of treats. Photography b Kate Swarner

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Candy and sweets are as synonymous with Halloween as ghosts and goblins. Notoriously frugal, I decided to make my own Halloween candy this year. After reading a few recipes and seeing all the ingredients needed, I moved on to my next brilliant idea - searching out locally made candy and sweets purveyors. After all, spending money at local businesses puts it back into the local community. A little digging revealed much yummy sweet goodness made and sold in the South Sound.

Johnson's Candy Company

For over 85 years All-American sweets maker Johnson's Candy Company in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood has been a local favorite. They use equipment from the 1930s and making candies by hand in Ron and Bee Johnson's shop. You won't find organically grown cacao beans or unusual ingredients like curry, sea salt or rosemary, but you will find straightforward sweet tooth pleasers - chocolate coated coconut, raspberry sticks, taffy, fudge, caramels, turtles and caramel nut logs, hand-dipped ice cream and  sugar-free and heart-healthy dark chocolate. Besides consistent quality and flavor, friendly service and familiar faces bring people back decade after decade.
[924 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, 253.272.8504]

Gosanko Chocolate Art

Auburn-based Gosanko Chocolate Art is known specifically for creating sweet treats in unexpectedly appealing shapes of wildlife, specifically the Gosanko signature fish, which is crafted with a detailed face and fins. The company has received national acclaim for their stunning molds and old-world sculpting art. The Baby Coho, King Salmon and Fighting Trout range from 2.5 to 16 ounces of milk chocolate packaged in classy gift boxes so that they appear mounted. For Halloween, jack-o'-lanterns, pumpkins, bats, haunted houses, scary cats and ghosts are made both on and off the stick in milk, dark and white chocolate.

[116 A Street SE, Auburn, 253.333.7567,]

Emily's Chocolate

Emily's Chocolates, located in Fife and part of AMES International, has been around for more than 20 years. From dried cranberries, raisins, cherries and nuts to espresso beans, fortune cookies and honey graham crackers, everything gets coated in milk or dark chocolate. The Fife outlet store is the way to go. Also sold at Fred Meyer, Bartell Drugs, Target and  Walgreens.

[4401 Industry Drive East, Fife, 253.946.4779,]

Bett Lou's

Though based in Oregon, Betty Lou's products are too good not to mention, and have the wonderful distinction of being vegan, gluten-, sugar- and corn-free and certified organic. Smackers, made from rich dark chocolate, brown rice (provides crispy crackle), almond and peanut butter, sesame seeds, oats, honey and a mess of other healthy stuff, might be the tastiest sweet thing you could put in your mouth. Nut butter ball treats come in cashew, pecan, chocolate walnut, spirulina ginseng and almond. So what if the ingredient list resembles the contents of your hippy uncle's pantry shelves; these are some good balls. Locally sold at Get Healthy Again in Fife and Whole Foods Market in Gig Harbor.

Theo Chocolate

Theo Chocolate, in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood, makes a delightful product and has the distinction of being the only bean-to-bar organic, Fair Trade factory in the United States. Yeeeowzer, that's awesome. Previously we had to look to Europe for a chocolate fix of this caliber. Cacao beans are roasted in-house in a 1937 German cast-iron roaster, and quality is determined by roasters tasting beans (what a job). Cream-based ganache, infused caramels, sipping chocolates, vegan dark chocolate truffles and fruit infused chocolate are all small batch. My fave is Fantasy Flavors' Bread and Chocolate bars in which creamy, dark chocolate meets salty, toasted artisan French breadcrumbs. I rationed it to myself, savoring every nibble, for over a week. Theo had me at "organic and Fair Trade." One can truly feel good about eating this chocolate. And they'll even give you a factory tour. Look for Theo bars at Tacoma and University Place locations: Fred Meyers, Metropolitan Market, Stadium Thriftway, Marlene's, Bartell Drugs and Super Supplements.

The other treats

When you get right down to it, the South Sound is a veritable Pandora's box of places that offer decadently good sweet treats: A tradition for many years, Brown & Haley's mouth-watering Almond Roca elegantly wrapped in gold foil is a favorite around the world. Affairs Chocolate & Desserts in University Place makes amazing hand-dipped truffles; Tacoma's Corina Bakery & Bistro has Valhalla cappuccino chocolate brownies; Punjab Sweets in Kent is a full service vegetarian bakery; Savory and Sweet Cafe in Puyallup has delicious chocolate chip cookies; Wagner's European Bakery & Cafe in Olympia has to-die-for German chocolate cake; Sweets Treats & Design in Tacoma has double-dipped chocolate peanut butter cookies, sea salt caramels and pumpkin spice caramels; and there's crazy good cherry-vanilla-blueberry layered fudge from Mama Jack's Old Fashioned Fudge in Parkland (also sold at Walgreens beginning November). Obviously $5 bars of exquisite chocolate won't be what you hand out to trick or treaters, but if you do, send me your address ... I'm coming over.

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